25 February 2011
Last updated at 09:30
For many years Libya has been a transit country for sub-Saharan migrants trying to reach Europe - but for many it has been the end of the line. Unable to cross the sea they remain stuck, with no way back and no way forward having lost their savings to smugglers on their way to Libya. They live out of sight, trying to evade the police and an indefinite stay in prison. Whether the current unrest and possible regime change will have any affect remains to be seen. Photographer Mashid Mohadjerin has been documenting their lives and here we present some of the personal stories of the people she met.
The Sahara in Libya starts in Sabha, a trading town in the south. Some migrants like Uche and Ike were dropped off here on their way to the coast where they were supposed to cross over to Europe, but with all their money taken, they often could not even get to Tripoli.
Uche has been in Sabha for two and a half years. He left his native village in Nigeria after he met a man who told him he could make much more money in Europe. The man promised to take Uche and his cousin Ike to Europe for $1,800 (£1,115).
Uche's father died when he was seven and he has been working from a young age to take care of his family. On arrival in Agades in Niger they realised the man who was taking them was a smuggler. It was too late to turn back from the journey that turned out to be a nightmare. The smuggler left them in Sabha after collecting the entire amount they paid to get to Europe.
Aleb and Daniel in their tiny room outside of Tripoli. They met in high school in Ethiopia but after they got married Daniel was forced back to his native Eritrea to serve in the military. The only way for them to see each other again was for both to flee to Sudan. Unable to stay they decided to try to reach Europe, crossing the desert to Libya. They arrived in Libya three years ago.
They barely survived the three-week journey and once in Tripoli, were both arrested and put in separate detention centres and did not see each other for two years. Aleb survived detention but was released in a critical condition. When she recovered she started looking for her husband; some people told her he was dead, but they eventually found each other. Traumatised by their experiences they worried about their uncertain future. Aleb said: "Our room has become our prison. We are too afraid to go outside. Besides, they treat us as animals here."
Glory was brought to Tripoli by traffickers who promised to take her to Europe but once in Libya she was made to work in a brothel to pay back her "debt" for the journey. The only place where she feels safe is the church. Her situation back home is desperate and she does not want to return home empty handed.
Migrants and refugees often seek help from the church, but there have been too many people in need and not everyone has been accommodated.
Margret was a hairdresser in Nigeria. A friend promised her better paid work in Europe and she agreed to take the journey through the desert. When she arrived in Libya she was sold to a brothel by her smuggler. She managed to escape after being locked up for weeks.
Margret escaped with two other girls and they wandered around Tripoli for months, sleeping in buildings under construction. Then they met three Nigerian men who offered them this room next to theirs.
As thousand flee across the borders to escape the fighting, many of Libya's immigrants remain trapped and wait to see how the story unfolds. All photographs: Mashid Mohadjerin.